Flint Whistleblower Has Mayor Speaking Out

     FLINT, Mich. (CN) — The mayor of Flint on Wednesday condemned a federal complaint that accuses her of siphoning funds meant to bring the city clean water.
     “It saddens me that someone would attempt to taint me as mayor of a city that is dealing with a major public health crisis, which has affected every man, woman and child in Flint,” Mayor Karen Weaver said in a statement.
     The mayor’s comments come two days after her office initially cited a policy of not discussing litigation, in the face of a federal complaint by recently fired Flint city administrator Natasha Henderson.
     According to the May 9 complaint, an assistant who reports directly to Mayor Weaver came to Henderson “in tears,” saying she feared she would be put in jail for following the mayor’s directions.
     Weaver had allegedly instructed the assistant and a city volunteer to redirect “donations from Safe Water/Safe Homes — a donation fund for families impacted by Flint’s water crisis.”
     Under Weaver’s directions, according to the complaint, the funds would instead go to the mayor’s own political action committee, Karenabout Flint.
     City attorney Kendall Williams has not returned a voicemail seeking comment, but Weaver promised Wednesday that Flint’s legal counsel “will be responding to” Henderson’s “outrageous” allegations.
     Henderson says Weaver’s assistant normally instructed donors on how to send money to the Safe Water/Safe Homes charity through Flint’s website, but Weaver allegedly insisted that donors instead receive directions on donating to the Karenabout Flint fund through its website.
     After Henderson asked Anthony Chubb, the city’s interim chief legal counsel, to launch an investigation, she says she was hauled into the mayor’s office and “unilaterally terminated.”
     Henderson says Weaver got the city council on board with her decision after the fact, during a closed meeting on March 14 in which “Mayor Weaver disparaged and defamed plaintiff Henderson … alleging misconduct and other wrongdoing that never occurred and was patently false.”
     Weaver continues to disparage Henderson to the media, according to the complaint.
     In addition to claiming wrongful termination, wrongful discharge and breach of contract, Henderson accuses Flint and Weaver of violating her First Amendment rights.
     Henderson says she left a city-manager job in Muskegon Heights for the five-year contract with Flint, and that the city violated the Michigan Open Meetings Act by confirming her termination in a closed-door session.
     Darnell Earley approved Henderson’s hiring last year as Flint’s state-appointed emergency manager, according to the complaint.
     It was Earley who switched Flint’s water supply from Lake Huron to the corrosive Flint River in April 2014 as a cost-cutting measure. Earley became the emergency manager of Detroit Public Schools but resigned this past February amid tension over teacher sickouts.
     Henderson contends that her one year as city administrator of Flint “was beyond reproach.”
     “Ms. Henderson fought publicly for state funding to connect Flint to the Detroit Water and Sewage Department, in direct opposition to Governor Rick Snyder’s position on such funding,” the complaint says.
     “Ms. Henderson was key in securing the funds needed to make the switch from the Flint River back to the DWDS water system and received much praise from the city council for doing so.”
     DWDS is likely short for the Detroit Water and Sewage Department, or DWSD, a system that relies on Lake Huron.

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